Late Onion Planting

We harvested potatoes from a flower bed in July and had a successful crop. The potatoes could have remained in the ground a bit longer but the tops died back and the plants no longer looked attractive.

I had onion sets in the refrigerator from spring and I planted them the second week of July.  After planting, I covered the bed with wire to keep the cats out.  The onions are now growing through the wire.  Maintenance will be easy as there are few weeds.  We will thin by picking the occasional onion for salads and should have large onions by fall.

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Onion Plants in a flower bed under wire.

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Victory Gardens

The hoe in the backyard is mighty good backing for the flag on the front porch.1.

vic4Victory Gardens, War Gardens, or Food Gardens for Defence were popular in WW1 and WW2 as a way to combat the food shortages of the times and to free food resources for military operations.  It was patriotic to grow vegetables and to preserve food for winter use.  Home gardens and community gardens in public parks were a source of civic pride as gardeners fed their families and helped the war effort by being self-sufficient.  Home gardening, food preservation, and economic cooking was the patriotic duty of the home front.

Today there is a resurgence in gardening and in eating wholesome fresh foods. Community spaces are once again being converted to garden plots. In Chilliwack BC, where I live, a downtown lot was converted to raised-bed gardens with each plot assigned to a needy family who agrees to donate half to a local mission for the hungry.

Vancouver BC has its own Victory Gardens today as people utilize public and private space around them for food production. People are encouraged to be food heros and to grow their own.  Community urban gardens increase food sustainability and can be found on balconies and on boulevards. In some areas lawn size is diminished to create space for planters. Restaurants are experimenting with growing salad crops to serve the freshest food to their patrons.

Vegetable seeds have improved over the years to provide resistance to plant diseases, to mature in a shorter growing season, to yield in containers, and to enhance flavors.

Commercial produce travels a great distance to market, which requires high energy and increased costs.  In Canada with most of our winter produce coming from the US, fluctuation in currency can cause produce prices to spiral.

Victory Gardens were successful in wartime years and have much to offer us today.  They are an opportunity to cut expensive food costs, grow healthier foods, and offer more variety in our food choices.

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1. Ref 1. Circulular 72, Have a Backyard Garden,April 1917, State Council of Defence, Agricultural Extension Service, University of Wisconcin.

 

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The Potato Crop

The Potato Crop
by Linda C Butler

spudsWe have flower beds made with landscape ties by a fence and in front of our house. Potatoes sometimes sprout from the compost in these beds and we have left them to grow, digging the occasional hill in the fall.

I am bothered by cats using these flower beds as a community litter box, so this year I almost decided to cover the flower beds with black landscape cloth and artificial flowers, but then I remembered potatoes. I removed some of the dirt from the beds so the soil is now below the box edges, then dug the ground and mixed dried leaves and compost into the soil. I will plant potatoes, then staple wire to the wood edges, allowing the potatoes to grow through the wire. Since the soil is below the wire, cats will not scratch in the dirt. I selected Norland, an early red variety with high yields for delicious summer potato salads.

Potatoes grow faster if they are sprouted before planting, so I laid them on a tray in a warm place and the sprouts are now about half an inch long. Small potatoes can be planted whole, but larger potatoes should be cut in half or in quarters, with at least one eye in each piece. After cutting, the potatoes can sit for a day to dry the edges of the cut surface. They are planted 6 inches deep.

After the plants have grown, they are hilled to protect the growing tubers from greening and to encourage additional growth at the top of the vine. I will add dirt to the flower bed at that time, and probably cover it with landscape cloth as I cannot hill potatoes in the traditional way. Under good growing conditions, Norland potatoes will mature in 90 days. When the tops have died down, they can be cut away. The mature potatoes can be harvested then, or left in the ground for a couple weeks to allow the skins to properly set for storage.

I grew Norland potatoes last summer in Northern Manitoba. I was given a bag of sprouted seed potatoes and a neighbor rototilled a patch of ground. I planted the potatoes at the beginning of July but they took a long time to sprout as the soil was still cold. This year, I will plant them in raised beds as the soil in beds warms faster than bare ground. Our neighbors harvested a successful crop in September.

My Dad, who trapped in the Thompson MB area in the 1930s, planted his potato patch on a portage. He was gone all summer, but travellers on the river took time to weed and to hill the potatoes for him. His wilderness potato crop was dependant on the generosity of passersby. Once the potatoes reached a certain size, visitors could help themselves to young potatoes for a meal.

I read an editorial in our local paper about climate change and its devastating effect on the world’s ability to produce food. The suggestion is that we should eat local food, locally produced, or grown at home.

One of the most basic foods is the potato. We rely primarily on 10 or 12 types of potatoes but there are some 5,000 potato varieties among the South American Andes mountain slopes where potatoes originated, many with future food potential. The potato yields more nutritious food more quickly on less land and in harsher climates than any other major food crop. It is interesting that my decision to plant potatoes is a good choice for a world facing more severe climate conditions.

Reference: Chilliwack Progress, www.theprogress.com page 12, 4 April 14 “A little food for thought on global climate change”, Margaret Evans.

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Onions

ONION SEEDS
by Linda C Butler

Green Onions – plant some green onions to add to early salads.  Green onions can be grown in two months from seed and can be grown in shallow containers with holes drilled for drainage.  This means that you can get an onion crop in before you can work the ground to plant.

Stokes Seeds offers a red bunching onion, Red Baron, which is ready in 65 days.  We plant onion multipliers for fast onions, but enjoy the slower growing bunching onions.

If you have chive plants, they will offer fresh mild onion stems for delicate flavor.  Plant multipliers or sets for quick onions.  No salad is complete without onion.

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Zucchini

ZUCCHINI
by Linda C Butler

Every garden deserves a zucchini bush and it is great to have summer squash.

Stokes Seeds offers Sunstripe, a yellow, spineless and prolific variety with 50 days to maturity.  They can be harvested at 4 inches long and the flowers are edible.

PUMPKIN

Stokes Hijinks Hybrid offers resistance to powdery mildew, which is a common problem when pumpkins are ripening.  Pumpkins are 6-7 pounds and mature in 100 days.

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Carrots

CARROTS
by Linda C Butler

Rich sandy soils give the best results for carrots.  The ground must be well worked and free of debris which would cause the carrots to be misshapen.

Stokes offers Tendersnap Hybrid Carrot,  68 days to maturity.  It is good raw, cooked or juiced.  It can be grown in a deep container.

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Parsley

PARSLEY
by Linda C Butler

Parsley is one of my favorite garden plants because it is so decorative and the dark green foliage highlights other plants grown near it.  In the pacific climate, it usually survives year round.  If I allow one plant to go to seed in the spring there will be multiple parsley sprouts in the garden.

Parks offers Lisette parsley, which is suitable for pots.  Parsley has a tap root and not all varieties can be grown in pots.

Parsley seed can be soaked overnight before planting to give it a head start.  Be careful of the tap root when transplanting.

Flat-leaf parsley is the more flavorful variety and is used for cooking.  It should be harvested fairly regularly so the plants continue to sprout.  In mild climates it can be cut throughout the winter.

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